Favorite

The way we were 

We left that world many light years back there, parsecs ago, farther back than there are zeroes to number the miles. But we can revisit it, or fragments of it, through a sort of magical ability that is probably unique to humans in this universe. The Beatles called it getting back to where we once belonged.

It can be a quick trip. A scavenger hunt. A rummage sale. What Momma Gump said about the chocolates. You never know. One odd retrieval often leading to another, which the shrinks turned into a basic psychoanalytical tool.

These are some idle yonder pickings brought back for glider mulling at the start of another June.

I remember polio, its last visitation here, the “no cause for panic” warnings, and of course the panic. Looking into the eyes of an inert someone prone in an iron lung, no expectation of ever getting out. Pap remembered the smallpox, his blood kin it took to the little graveyard, boys and girls, a hundred years ago. Their stones now vanished.

I remember when some cars were works of art, the others mere conveyances with no such pretensions. Some were Lincolns and some were Fords, like presidents. Some doozies, others crates. Revealing our class distinctions, make and model made all the difference if you were lower aspiring to middle, or middle aiming up. Or if you were upper and wanted to rub it in. Even muffler types defined sub-classes.

I remember when every little burg like this one had its Disfarmer, and having our pictures taken at the local studio was a solemn responsibility for one and all — peasant, prole, burgher, and gentry. Serious business — one of the few ways we had to put ourselves ineradicably on record. A way to authenticate the community so that the fickle future couldn't disclaim it altogether. I don't know how I can be back there and here too, but I am.

I remember the classroom atomic-bomb drills, which pretended that hunkering under your desk would somehow shield you from the Doomsday smithereens. Mother, even with Alzheimer's, remembered her great-aunt remembering how it was in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, on the trail of the lonesome pine. The bombs there then were smaller but not called Wooly Boogers for nothing.

I remember fried squirrel, crisp from an iron skillet, the tastiness of it deriving perhaps from a pristine forest's robust acorns and hickory nuts.

I remember how hypnotic it was, the first neon sign I ever looked at across a rainy street from the Flying Red Horse, moody invite into the Cozy Nook Café. The cozy nook we're all looking for. The first color TV had a similar effect, but its painted images flickered, and so lacked the enchantment of the steady neon glow. There was pinball, though.

I remember neighbors prized more for their warts than for their all — for individual lapses and tangents that might, by comparison, sometimes lift your own self-esteem a little. But neighbors then never stooped to schadenfreude, as neighbors, so-called, now routinely do. They would “do anything for you,” and did.

I remember when the world was a monarchy, the Deity its sovereign, the democratic ideals of the Enlightenment generally scorned out here in the sticks. The Man had a Plan and you had your place in the scheme and were expected to find, know, and keep it. We had no acquaintance with the “alienation” that city folks and intellectuals wore as a badge. I remember James Thurber's cartoon caption: “So you're disillusioned. We're all disillusioned.”

I remember the boundless fascination that the test pattern held. As Nietzsche said, if you looked long enough at that Indian, he would begin to look back into you.

I remember lemonade in washtubs but not the context. Pie suppers maybe, or what were called “dinners on the ground.” Or “company picnics.” All very fleeting.

I remember river baptizings, and how evil doubts came creeping about the efficacy of the ceremony long term. Something of alchemy seemed to be involved, and in my stunted imagination I made a connection with a popular dry-cleaning process called Sanforizing. And impious questions: If the Lord was sinless, what was it exactly that his baptism washed away? And afterward, on the tailgate of the old pickup riding home, thinking what a squandering it was of the privilege of human intelligence to dispute such foolish questions as sprinkling vs. immersion. Shame on us. Shame on us still.

I remember the drama in being able to compare how much more effective an incandescent bulb was in holding back the night than the kerosene lamp had been. So many fearsome creatures the light bulb banished from the bright circle.

I remember the benign tyranny of chores: how they're almost necessary in the formation of an identity, even if the larger part of that identity derives from your chafing against the harness they dress you in. A pretty light harness in my own case, I have to say. Or in the ecclesiastical metaphor, a pretty easy yoke.

I remember fishing when there was no inkling, not a bit of it, that I should be doing something else.

Etc., etc.  Borne ceaselessly back against the riffles, into the maw.

 

 

 

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Bob Lancaster

  • Wretched rez

    I had some New Year's Rez(olutions) for 2016 but that ship sailed so I'm renaming them my Spring Rez or my All-Occasion Whatevers and sending them along.
    • May 26, 2016
  • Nod to Bob

    A look back at the weird and wonderful world of Bob Lancaster.
    • Mar 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Bob Lancaster

  • Lancaster retires

    Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.

    • Feb 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • Making it through

    Made it through another January, thank the Lord.
    • Feb 6, 2013
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Fake economics

    • Trump economic proposals: Rates for Married-Joint filers: Less than $75,000: 12% More than $75,000 but…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation